Whether you’re playing the contrarian or the defender, embracing disagreement is an essential pit stop on the road to courageous marketing. It’s easy and safe to be agreeable. Disagreement takes moxie. It takes the audacity of speaking out when your boss is wrong about something. It takes the determination of standing your ground when you’re faced with backlash. And it takes the grit to emerge as an expert in your field among a sea of misinformation.
Embracing disagreement means that you might have to face some uncomfortable circumstances. Sitting idly by in meetings while your colleagues drag on about a misguided strategy won’t help anyone. And while it might be awkward to challenge a bad idea in front of everyone (or to be the person whose idea is being challenged), sometimes it’s the only way to push your team and your company forward.
When it comes to marketing your business and telling your brand story, it can be tempting to stay silent and fall into line with what you’ve always done, what the industry says you should do and what your colleagues agree on. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best course of action.
Facing conflict can be scary, but most of the time it’s worth the struggle for four reasons:
1. Diversity of thought breeds great ideas
Some of history’s best music has been born through conflict between band members: John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger vs. Keith Richards, Liam Gallagher vs. Noel Gallagher, just to name a few. There’s a reason for that: diversity of thought breeds great ideas.
If you’re facing contrarian voices in your marketing meetings, it’s probably a good thing—it means you have a diverse set of opinions and schools of thought. If every idea that is pitched is met with resounding agreement, your marketing will turn out pretty vanilla.
2. Beginner’s mind combats the curse of knowledge
You and your colleagues may be experts in your field, but are your clients? You might be so entrenched in your work that you’ve lost touch with your audience and what they know. Asking questions like a newcomer can help you push past roadblocks caused by the curse of knowledge.
If you’re questioning a decision, you’re probably not alone. Beginner’s mind means having the courage to speak up and say, “Why are we doing this? Does this make sense?” It also allows you to embrace optimistic skepticism.
3. Optimistic skepticism roots out weakness
As a marketer, you’re supposed to be the most vocal advocate for your clients—the people who are often skeptical and cautious about spending money, especially when it comes to a new partnership or service. So when you’re making marketing decisions, you need to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Play the skeptic, not to be cynical about the outlook of your company, but to identify where there’s weakness in your sales pitches and marketing strategies.
Anticipating why a client might be wary of paying for your services forces you to see different points of view. It’s a stress test for your ideas. It allows you to deepen your expertise and strengthen your argument.
4. Respectful disagreement builds resilience
Ultimately, disagreement isn’t about being a jerk. It’s about making a logical argument in order to develop and defend your expertise. In fact, marketing leaders should invite disagreement. They should beg colleagues to poke holes in their ideas.
Bumping up against arguments and push-back gives those ideas resilience and staying power. The more you have to defend your case before it’s launched into the wild, the stronger your idea stands. And by assuming that someone might disagree with your proposed plan, you’re already one step ahead.
That’s courageous marketing.